Tuesday, September 7, 2021

REVIEW: 'Impeachment: American Crime Story' - Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky Meet While Working at the Pentagon in 'Exiles'

FX's Impeachment: American Crime Story - Episode 3.01 "Exiles"

After the death of her boss, White House staffer Linda Tripp is moved to the Pentagon where she meets Monica Lewinsky. Paula Jones decides to sue the President for sexual harassment.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of FX's Impeachment: American Crime Story.

"Exiles" was written by Sarah Burgess and directed by Ryan Murphy

Linda Tripp is someone who demands that everyone acknowledge and respect just how important she is. She projects that desperation to cover up for the fact that her life is incredibly lonely. At home, it's all sadness as she eats tv dinners in a dimly lit living room watching the news. She is removed from anything resembling a life outside of her career. One phone call is the only mention that she has a family. And yet, she demands that others perceive her as this great force of nature. She was the last person to see Vincent Foster alive before his suicide. She uses that basically as part of her resumé and the argument for why she needs special privilege. She needs others to know when she is even slightly inconvenienced. Nothing can be done about the annoying working conditions that surround her at the Pentagon job. She still complains. This premiere essentially paints her as a Karen and nothing more. She is outwardly the villain of this story because she quickly attaches herself to any semblance of a scandal that can propel her back into the orbit of a life she deems more legitimate. Sure, she is tentative about writing a book detailing her time working in the White House at first. The animosity of her being transferred to the Pentagon never goes away though. She spends years in that environment. Drastically little changes. She was simply waiting her time until something presented itself for her to use to advance her own agenda against those she believes betrayed her and who show such little regard for the way things always worked. That's the whole basis of her friendship with Monica Lewinsky. Over one conversation at lunch, Linda determines that Monica is having an affair with the President. She makes that assumption entirely because of the open secret that he sexually harasses women when he is alone with them. Of course, Linda also has a condescending view to any woman who allows herself to be in that situation. The press doesn't treat Paula Jones kindly when she comes forward with her claims of what happened between her and Clinton when he was Governor of Arkansas in a hotel room. But again, people see that story as a weapon that can be used politically. The show doesn't really have the time to delve into the idea that conspiracy theories have already swelled around the Clintons. It's the emergence of a new form of political discourse. On one hand, it's the changing nature of women in the workplace at large. Hillary demands her own workplace in the West Wing. People want to dismiss that as her simply monitoring the women who meet with her husband. They don't want to acknowledge the political skills she also brings to this environment. Instead, she is a woman who doesn't know her place. Bill is the one committing these abusive actions. He must be held accountable. And yet, that entire argument is only seen through the prism of how it benefits people also driven by ego. They too make choices that hurt others just to get themselves to the top. Monica may not realize the extent of that betrayal until the very end of her friendship with Linda. That is foreseen here. Of course, that makes this the latest show utilizing the device of jumping around in time to tell a more coherent story. It doesn't succeed as that. It just makes the viewer more confused. In fact, this premiere often feels like a slog. It makes these big pronouncements. None of them come with any true sense of momentum. It's all an introduction. That's to be expected from a premiere. It's going to get more complicated. But it's not all that dimensional. It's using broad strokes in order to depict this story that has been infamous since it made national headlines decades ago. It wants the benefit of reflecting on how these events were covered. In hindsight, the public can see the nuances of how the various people involved were treated. But again, it feels like the bare minimum is being put into ensuring the dimensions of this story are layered and engaging. Right now, it's a biographical piece depicting events instead of trying to inform the choices everyone made every step of the way. The franchise has set certain standards for its depictions of crime in the 1990s. In this case, it already comes across as an imitation instead of a searing portrait of people's humanity. That's unfortunate given the many ways in which this story has potent connections to politics in the present. The world at large has become willing to engage in issues of equality and sexual assault more fiercely than ever before. The conversation has changed dramatically. This story has the possibility to reveal what the world got wrong, which set us on our current path. Learning from the past is necessary for growth. And yet, everyone here seems hiding behind some sensationalized buzzwords and the immediate understanding that this is all important without putting in that work naturally to highlight the criminal and complex core of this saga.